GM Bullish about Fuel Cell Deal with Nikola
"We are going forward" with $2 billion alliance, says President Mark Reuss.
Don’t be too quick to write off that $2 billion deal between General Motors and Nikola to share the fruits of the startup’s electric- and fuel cell-powered vehicles.
The Nikola Badger pickup truck (Image: Nikola)
The companies announced in September a plan in which GM would invest $2 billion for an 11% stake in Nikola. GM would produce battery- and fuel cell-powered Nikola Badger pickups, for which it would receive emission credits.
But two weeks later Nikola Chairman Trevor Milton stepped down amid claims that he had lied to investors about the state of the company and its vehicle development program. Milton denies any wrongdoing.
Back on Track?
After weeks of silence, GM has finally sounded a positive note about the partnership. For now, at least, GM President Mark Reuss tells Bloomberg TV, “We are going forward.”
The accusations delayed Nikola’s plan to unveil the Badger in December. They also pushed Nikola and GM into an in-depth review of their would-be alliance.
Reuss says those talks continue. But he also reveals that GM is especially excited about supplying a fuel cell stack system it has been co-developing with Honda since 2017 for the heavy-duty trucks that Nikola proposes to make and sell on its own.
GMC Hummer electric pickup (Image: GM)
Reuss notes that the same fuel stack design is expected to be used in Nikola’s upcoming Badger light-duty pickup truck that would be built by GM but marketed by Nikola. GM would collect regulatory credits for Badger sales to help offset emissions from its own piston-powered trucks.
Covering All Bets
The Badger program won’t be a big seller, since the ability to find hydrogen fuel for such vehicles is limited at best. But it does help GM cover all electric powertrain options.
More important, most Badgers will be powered by advanced Ultium batteries developed by South Korean battery supplier LG Chem and co-produced by the two companies in Ohio. Having a customer outside GM will help accelerate production volumes for the Ohio plant.
Meanwhile, GM intends to jump into the electric pickup truck market a year from now with its own Ultium-powered entry, the GMC Hummer it unveiled last night.
Although the term “continuous improvement” is generally associated with another company, Honda is certainly pursuing that approach, as is evidenced by the Accord, which is now in its ninth generation.
Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”
The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.